Noisy Brains

This is a fascinating bit of neural research out of MIT. It proposes a whole new teacher/tinker model for learning and creativity at the level of how the brain is wired. It would seem to account for that “ah-ha!” moment when you’ve been mulling something about and finally all the pieces drop into place – a physiological Gestalt of sorts. Looked at another way, it makes thinking a lot like herding cats. The “teacher” keeps trying to organize thoughts while the “tinker” keeps having them wander off. In this way, the teacher is your rational self while the tinker is your creative self. It’s like Scrabble with neurons.

I’m wondering about tinker stimulation though. What amplifies noise? Just thinking out loud, but it strikes me that noise at the neuronal level is probably similar to electronic noise in a circuit. After all, they are both primarily electrical devices. If you want to increase noise in a circuit, you increase the current and the component density. In the brain, I imagine this amounts to increasing the frequency and density of neuronal firings. In other words, you think about more stuff. This may explain why it’s almost impossible to be creative by concentrating on it. Creativity most often happens while you’re busy doing something else.

It also occurs to me that this is a very natural model to develop. In a sense, the yin/yang approach here is similar to how evolution works at the genetic level. Genetic mutations are the tinker or the noise. Survival then becomes the teacher, correcting/selecting for the most useful recombinations.

Unfortunately, this makes thought control devices and sci-fi telepathy a bit more complicated, but nobody thought that was easy anyway.

Very cool…

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